Some second day thoughts. (You can read a variety of new overnight bloggy reactions to the case here.)
First off, it still seems to me that the fury over banned contraception is de trop. Of the twenty forms of contraception mandated as covered in the ACA, Hobby Lobby agreed to fund all but four of them, the ones that could, in their view, be seen as abortifacients. I think they’re pretty obviously wrong about that as a scientific matter. In which case, the best counter-argument is to make is exactly that: their religious consciences are simply empirically misinformed. But that is not the argument being proffered.
Secondly, this case is effectively an affirmation of our new, libertarian order. Ross has a great blog post on this today. For the first time, evangelical Christians are pretty much a minority on a major social question (a few forms of contraception), and they are therefore, like many minorities before them, looking to the Court to protect them. Money quote from Ross:
On other culture-war fronts — same-sex marriage, most notably — the old dynamic still sort of shows up, with judges repeatedly overturning democratically-enacted (though, in many cases, no longer majority-supported) laws that religious conservatives tended to support. But on religious liberty, the old order is increasingly reversed, with conservative believers looking to the courts rather than the vox populi for protection against moves made by the elected branches, and especially the current national executive.
Why is this not overall a good development? I remain of the view that if this precedent leads to discrimination in employment against purported sinners, then it will be a death-knell for Christianity in America. If Christianity becomes about marginalizing groups of people, it will be a betrayal of the Gospels and a sure-fire path to extinction. And the Christianists will not win with that argument, as the marriage equality experience demonstrates. But if evangelical or orthodox Catholic Christians seek merely to protect themselves from being coerced by government in overly aggressive fashion – remember that the Obama administration lost this fight because they chose the maximalist position with respect to employer-provided health insurance and did not choose another, less invasive path of providing contraception – then I think that’s a paradigm worth encouraging.
Religion is best when it does not seek to impose itself on other people.
This, indeed, is the core heresy of Christianism – a desire to impose religious rules on others who do not share the faith. But when it seeks merely to carve out a space in a secular culture where it can operate as autonomously as possible, it is imposing nothing on anyone. It is merely seeking an exemption for itself. Yes, Hobby Lobby prevents its own employees, who may not be evangelical Christians, from getting four types of contraception. But nothing in the ruling prevents other ways of providing those options that do not violate anyone’s consciences. A single-payer provision, for example, would not incur any religious freedom issues. Which means that this decision is, in essence, a libertarian one. And the more the evangelical right seeks merely to protect its own rights, rather than imposing on anyone else’s, the better.
There is, in other words, a kernel here that could unwind Christianism as a domineering force in our multi-faith and multi-cultural polity. Perhaps liberals and old-school conservatives should cheer that, instead of hyperventilating quite as much as they did yesterday.
(Photo: An Iud by BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images)