One of the several weird things about the Hobby Lobby decision is that it appears to leave open the possibility that just about any employer can withhold mandated coverage from employees for any “religious” belief, whether that belief makes factual sense or not. For example, Dahlia Lithwick writes,
Having read the opinion only briefly I am not at all clear on why Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, is so certain that he can hold the line here to closely held corporations and that the parade of “me too” litigants promised by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing in dissent, won’t show up on the court steps in the coming months and years. For one thing we are—going forward—no longer allowed to argue the science. “It is not for us to say that their religious beliefs are mistaken or insubstantial,” writes Alito. Also, going forward, we are not allowed to argue the depth of religious conviction. Once those are off the table in this case, they are either off the table forever, or the court will decide in the future what’s off and what’s on.
The science part refers to the fact that Hobby Lobby objected to emergency contraception and IUDs, in the belief that they cause abortions, and medical science says they don’t. Justice Alito apparently said that it doesn’t matter what the science says, it’s the belief itself that is sacred and unquestionable. But neither are we allowed to question the sincerity of that belief. This seems to me to open many industrial-size cans of big, nasty worms..
I don’t think most employers are going to suddenly drop contraception coverage, if only because it probably wouldn’t reduce their insurance costs much, if at all. It wouldn’t be worth the bad publicity. But the world is full of whackjobs who own companies and employ people.
Justice Alito claims this decision won’t open the door to denial of other kinds of coverage, but why it wouldn’t is not clear. Lithwick says this either means some religions — Christian Scientists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Wiccans — are not to be taken seriously. Or, he’s saying that some kinds of medical coverage don’t need to be taken seriously.
… while they concede that the government has a meaningful interest in assuring that Americans receive reproductive care, it’s actually only kind of serious, and not nearly as serious as the interest in preventing, say, the spread of disease (in the case of denied vaccinations). Here is Justice Alito: “HHS asserts that the contraceptive mandate serves a variety of important interests, but many of these are couched in very broad terms, such as promoting ‘public health’ and ‘gender equality.’ ”
Silly, silly gender equality. In silly quotation marks! You know what isn’t in quotation marks in this opinion? Infectious diseases. Because there’s a real government interest. Or, as Erick Erickson, the conservative blogger put it today: “My religion trumps your ‘right’ to employer subsidized consequence free sex.”
Erick Son of Erick is such a prince, ain’t he?
Anyway, early indications are that Dems intend to campaign on this decision. Dave Weigel writes that this decision potentially could cost the Republicans in November. Let’s hope.