At first glance what is at issue is whether religious freedoms extend to decisions made by for-profit corporations. Feel free to check out assessments of the cases here and here. You can also check out the bizarre claims made by Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, that the cases are ‘not about religious liberty’.
Like hell they’re not.
Here’s the rub – the blather of pundits about what the Supreme Court’s decision will ultimately be ignores a crucial point. This point was observed and then ignored by none other than the Huffington Post, in their piece Hobby Lobby Case: A Constitutional Pandora’s Box; the point? The case has already been decided.
In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission the Court’s majority opinion maintained that “If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech”.
This was the controversial ruling equating businesses with ‘personhood’ for the purposes of delineating where and when corporations have the right of political speech under the First Amendment. Observe that in the decision the Court says that the First Amendment “prohibits Congress” from “fining….associations of citizens (read: businesses) …for …engaging in political speech’.
For the Supreme Court to rule against Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, in order for them to maintain credibility they will have to explain how it is that due to the existence of the Obamacare mandates, under the law a business has ‘freedom of speech’ per the First Amendment but not freedom of religion.
The Court will have no choice but to decide that, in the case of corporations (read: associations of citizens), free speech is o.k. but religious practice is not.
This would be no small task.
A decision such as they would need to make would go something like this:
“We’ve already decided you have the right to speak out, campaign, and lobby to your hearts content. However, because of Obamacare you specifically have no religious rights. As a corporation you may speak, but you may not consistently practice your faith. “
In other words: you may speak as Christians, but not act like Christians.
Not about religious liberty?