Hobby Lobby - are there limits on religious freedom?

Should other “closely held” companies, with different religious beliefs, have the right to more sweeping exceptions to ‘Obamacare’ than were granted to Hobby Lobby?

At it’s core, Hobby Lobby was a case where the company won the right to be exempt from a law, i.e. to be above the law. As I understand it, the portion of the law in dispute was one that set out minimum standards for what needed to be included in a health plan. The objective was to ensure a certain minimum level of coverage for all Americans.

Hobby Lobby objected to funding contraception (or at least some forms of it) and the courts basically said “OK, Hobby Lobby because of your religious beliefs you do not have to obey the law as other companies do, and your employees do not have a right to something that most other Americans enjoy”.

So, let’s say Hobby Lobby gets sold to a nice Christian Science person. Would the supporters of Hobby Lobby agree that he/she should have the right to exclude certain (or maybe even all) medications and some (or all) types of surgery from their health plan in favour of only paying for spirtitual healing practioners, based on exactly the same premise – religious belief/freedom?

Here, of course, it becomes tricky. My response is that although medication and surgery may be contrary to the religious practices of Christian Scientists, they would NOT have the right to prevent employees from receiving these services since such denial might be detrimental to the health and life of the employees. The same case cannot be made for the denial of contraceptive coverage since the latter is not vital to the health or life of the employees. Thus in the latter instance, the religious rights of the company trump the rights of the employees, whereas in the example involving Christian Scientists, the rights of the employees take precedence.

On a broader scale, religious rights, like ALL rights–including freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to bear arms, and so on–do have limits based on social responsibility and the welfare of the general public.

Which really underlines why the government shouldn’t be in the business of mandating companies to provide health insurance in the first place. Should be a company’s choice based on competing for labor, not a mandate. Which would be quite doable if we had a private health insurance market similar to auto or life or property insurance. In the case of health insurance, individuals receiving the same tax breaks on their insurance payments that are provided to companies.

Actually, Hobby Lobby’s employees are NOT denied the right to get contraception.

I believe you’re correct. As I understand it, they asked not to have to provide the type of contraception which acted ‘after the event’ as it were, such as the morning after pill. Lost all other forms of contraception would be provided.

Seems reasonable to me.

Well, even if that were not the case, NOBODY is preventing their employees from getting any kind of contraception. I hate that people keep saying that Hobby Lobby is preventing their employees from getting contraception. It’s just not true. Hobby Lobby isn’t trying to control the actions of their employees, they’re trying to be allowed to control their own actions.

Anyone with a prescription can go to e.g. Wal Mart and get the pill for something like $4 a month. All Hobby Lobby wants is not to facilitate it themselves. If I have a strong moral stance against alcohol (which as it happens I don’t, it’s just an example), and I refuse to pick up a neighbor’s beer at the store, I am not preventing my neighbor from getting beer. I’m just not getting it for him.

I don’t believe people have a “right” to contraception. But even if they did, I think my right not to help get it for them ought to be at least as important.


No, that’s not correct. They will allow the pill to be supplied. They have no problem with that. They have just asked that they are not obliged to provide aborficant contraception. Which, again, seems entirely reasonable to me.

Hobby Lobby is against certain types of contraception ghat they consider abortificant (I don’t remember if the “Pill” is included). But they are not “banning” their employees from obtaining the contraception they object to, but are rather insisting that they not pay for it/provide it.

What the poster was saying is that there is a difference between banning something and not paying for something.

Example: My current employer bans its employees from using marijuana even off the job and has a threat of enforcement with a clause saying they can demand drug tests, either randomly or with cause, this is a ban. Hobby Lobby however, doesn’t say its employees can’t use these forms of contraception, but is saying that that paying for or facilitating the acquisition of those forms of contraception violates its religious beliefs. (which aiding and abetting sin is a pretty well established religious (and legal) principle) .

I think my question has been misinterpreted. I did not mean to imply that Hobby Lobby, or some future hypothetical Christian Science owner can or would in any way be able restrict what an employee could do.

It is about, and only about, paying for that medical treatment through a health care plan and to what extent companies should be able to refuse to pay.

The way I see it, if one accepts that the Hobby Lobby owners have the right to refuse to pay for contraception, a Christian Scientist must also have the right to refuse to pay for, let’s say, antibiotics. If one says that antibiotics are reasonable and must be covered, but contraception isn’t, one is then allowing the courts to determine which religious views are reasonable and which are not.

One of the hallowed hallmarks of American law is that it is supposed to apply equally to all, no exceptions. No one is above the law. Unless the Christian Scientist has equal rights to refuse to cover what he/she considers morally wrong (e.g. antibiotics) the law is not being applied equally.

Yes, thanks, that is exactly what I was saying!


Well, the way I see it, people can choose whom to work for, and one of the (name removed by moderator)uts into that decision is what kind of health insurance is offered. The government has no business interfering in the process at all, making it a legal matter is completely inappropriate, and requiring anything but the most basic coverage is practically designed to lead to this sort of problem.

If I minded paying $40 for my antibiotics (at least that is how much it cost last time I had them), I wouldn’t work for a company run by Christian Scientists. Frankly, I’m OK with that.


As I understand it, the HHS mandate does have numerous exemptions, and not just religious exemptions. And the religious exemption is applied by HHS only to what IT considers religious organizations. It considers churches to be religious organizations, but not orders of nuns.

In any case, yes, I think the choice of whether or not to provide health insurance ought to be up to the employer, not the government.

The Supreme Court and lower courts have limited the rights of Christian Scientists and mandated various therapies, like blood transfusions.

The Supreme Court has limited the right of religious freedom in the case of Mormonism’s plural marriage.

And the suggestion that asserting religious rights puts one “above the law” is repulsive. Abortion is “legal.” Suicide is “legal.” What is legal is not moral. The religious sisters instituted to protect life will be fined $100/daily per person for not having abortion and contraception insurance coverage. Phony phreedom phighters have rolled over and shown their bellies to the ravenous wolves because of what is “legal.” May I use the word “crotchaholics?”


Have you ever purchased the pill? Maybe Walmart has an inside track on some ultra-cheap, generic, Made-in-China stuff, but when I was on the name-brand pill it was $30/mo. AFTER insurance.

My insurance company stopped covering the brand I preferred at one point and told me I had to switch to generic. The generic gave me awful side effects. I switched back to the name-brand stuff (now without the benefit of insurance) and I think it was something like $70/mo.

It is not $4!!

I agere. And I think they should be allowed to ask that certain types be excluded. I see no problem with it.

When interfering in a religious practice or violating religious beliefs the government must apply strict scrutiny for constitutional issues (it should be noted that Hobby Lobby was decided under statutory construction, so the SC was merely deciding that the regulations violated an already existing law). Strict scrutiny means that the government must have a compelling interest (necessary or crucial not just preferred), the law must be narrowly tailored, and the least restrictive means for achieving the compelling government interest.

Well not quite- it’s not that they’re above the law, but rather that a separate law (The Religious Freedom Restoration Act), exempted them from the ACA. Ultimately I think it’s still absurd for several reasons- if the US was sensible, the federal government would fund healthcare, as it does in every other industrialized country, and this wouldn’t even be an issue. But even in this case, if we’re going to pass laws they should apply to everyone.

Yes, I totally agree. There’s no reason the employer should provide health insurance. Because then what you see is someone gets cancer or is injured, can’t work anymore, and oops, they’re let go. Believe me, it happens all the time.
Then they can purchase COBRA, which is about $800/month, which no one on disability can afford. Or they’re out of luck and quit taking their meds.

So, true, we need publicly funded, federally administered health care.
But then we are left with the same problem: why should I as a taxpayer pay taxes to cover others’ abortions and contraception? Because you can bet your beanie that contraception at least will be considered a medical necessity.
What do we do with that problem?

I don’t see why we need to do anything. At this moment, my tax dollars are already going towards programs that I disapprove of, and things that I support are being partially funded by the taxes of those who don’t support them. Neither they nor I get to opt-out on the basis of our respective objections.

Gosh, yes. I trust the US federal government so much, I want them to have access to all of my health information. I’m sure it won’t end up getting hacked, since they’re so good at protecting the information they really care about. Oh, wait…

These things work much better in smaller countries.