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Hobby Lobby, religious freedom

Published: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 10:55 a.m. CDT

So what does the Supreme Court’s decision in favor of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood really mean?

Well, no sooner had the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case been announced than a narrative began to take shape in the mainstream media.

In this narrative, the victory for the Green and Hahn families was a defeat for American women.

In a particularly egregious example of this narrative, Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted that she could not believe that “we live in a world where we’d even consider letting big corp[oration]s deny women access to basic care based on vague moral objections.”

While, to be fair, Warren isn’t a member of the media, her take is representative of the daily misrepresentation of the court’s decision.

For instance, the “corp[oration]s” she refers to are family-owned businesses, families that include women like Barbara Green who supported the challenge to the HHS mandate.

Furthermore, no one is denying anyone “basic health care.” The decisions involve a particular group of abortion-inducing drugs.

In fact, as the court noted, “the Hahns and Greens and their companies have religious reasons for providing health care coverage for their employees.”

They didn’t need the Affordable Care Act to do the right thing by their employees.

And, it’s not only health care. A recent Time magazine profile of the Greens noted the starting wage at Hobby Lobby is $15 an hour, twice the minimum wage in Oklahoma, where the company is based.

And they are, as one person quoted by Time put it, practitioners of a “radical generosity.” All of which makes talk about “vague moral objections,” well, objectionable.

The same beliefs that motivate their generosity prompted them, as a last resort, to challenge the HHS mandate in court.

An especially astute take on the case was written by Emma Green of the Atlantic Monthly.

After recounting the basic facts of the case and the legal issues decided by the court, she approvingly quotes John DiIulio of the Brookings Institution who said, “Love it or loathe it, the Hobby Lobby decision is limited in scope.”

And so, even though we continue to hear that this will allow Jehovah’s Witnesses to deny coverage of blood transfusions, that represents an ignorance of the decision in which that application was specifically ruled out.

And, it was limited in scope as to which businesses the ruling applies: closely held businesses for whom, as Time said about the Greens, “the business is the mission.” It did so in a way that explicitly foreclosed that kind of worst-case scenario bandied about by the most strident supporters of the HHS mandate.

What’s more, as Green writes, the decision doesn’t “necessarily prevent women who work at Hobby Lobby, Conestoga Wood, or other religious companies from accessing birth control through their insurance plans.”

Actually, they already could before the decision: the Greens and Hahns only objected to four abortifacients of the 20 contraceptive methods listed in the HHS Mandate.

What the decision means is that these families, and others like them, don’t have to pay for contraceptive methods that violate their conscience.

So, for starters, we should be thankful for this decision.

If HHS and the mandate’s supporters had prevailed, they would have created an entire class of people who would have to choose between following their conscience and running a business.

But be clear, what the decision does is not so much advance the cause of religious liberty as it does draw a line beyond which government cannot go in a particular area, in this case, health care.

And, there are plenty of other battles in other areas that await us. Pray for your country. It needs it.

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