Less Heat, More Light on the SCOTUS Decisions

There is plenty of confusion available.  Not only is there misunderstanding of the Hobby Lobby and the Wheaton College decisions, but there is a great deal of deliberate misinformation and outright lies being circulated in order to obscure a clear understanding.  If confusion is a sign of the devil, I smell smoke…..  Even the women on the Supreme Court issued a dissent which muddies the waters.  More here:  http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2014/07/justice-sotomayors-puzzling-dissent-in-the-wheaton-college-case?utm_source=First+Things+Subscribers&utm_campaign=29e235f6cb-7_8_147_8_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_28bf775c26-29e235f6cb-180412337

 Lets review the issues, broadly, so that Catholics better understand the issues at hand. 

The Hobby Lobby decision was a very narrow one.  It said that corporate persons, whether they were for-profit or not-for-profit, did have the ‘conscience’ of their owners and could be afforded the rights available under Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton (and called by his wife, a law that led to an “antidemocratic theocracy”).  The Hobby Lobby decision applied to ‘closely held’ companies, not publicly held companies traded on Wall Street, for instance. 

The remedy for Hobby Lobby’s conscience was the remedy which the Obama administration had already put into place for the Catholic Church and others who did not want to be complicit in offering immoral drugs (contraceptive and abortive) to its employees.  There are a number of serious objections to this remedy (the payment still comes from the religious employer’s insurer, which if the church is self-insured means that the church is still paying the bill directly.  Also the religious employer is still complicit in the distribution of the objectionable drugs.  The bishops of the Roman Catholic Church have said they could not participate in this solution. HOWEVER, the Hobby Lobby case was not deciding the worthiness of the remedy, only who is eligible for it.  And they said that the for-profit, closely held corporations with sincerely held religious objections were eligible for the administration’s remedy.


The Wheaton College injunction is offered to a religious institution which has objections to the remedy itself, something not examined in the Hobby Lobby case. The issuance of the injunction indicates that SCOTUS believes that Wheaton College has a strong case.  Even media outlets unfriendly to the cause of religious freedom for the Roman Catholic Church have written on the confusion, misinformation and hysteria surrounding these decisions, even from the women members of the Court themselves.  See this Washington Post article for more:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2014/07/06/more-on-what-the-wheaton-college-injunction-does-and-does-not-mean-for-contraception-coverage/

These issues are being settled by baby steps.  It is important not to exaggerate either their success or failure to achieve a larger goal, one which the decisions themselves do not aspire to discern. Clarity about the scope and nature of each decision is valuable!




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