NYT House Editorial on HHS Mandate Cases: Obscuring the Obama Administration’s Hostility to Religious-Liberty ConcernsPosted: December 2, 2013
Bench Memos at NRO (my new favorite source for judicial news & analysis) on Nov. 27th, Ed Whelan posted a good rebuttal of the NYTimes House Editorial on HHS Mandate cases. It’s a point-by-point takedown that I recommend for any health care consumer, reporter, NYTimes skeptic, religious observer, or like myself, underinformed non-attorney spokesperson.
1. NYT charges that “the real assault on religious freedom [is] the assertion by private businesses and their owners of an unprecedented right to impose the owners’ religious views on workers who do not share them.” It contends that the HHS mandate is necessary to “preserve an employee’s right to make her own decisions regarding birth control and not to conform to the religious beliefs of her employer.”
But the plaintiff businesses and owners are not trying to “impose [their] religious views on workers.” If they succeed in refusing to comply with the HHS mandate, their employees would remain entirely free to obtain and use the full range of FDA-approved contraceptives and to “make [their] own decisions regarding birth control.” All that the businesses and owners are objecting to is the Obama administration’s insistence on dragooning them to provide insurance coverage that violates their religious beliefs.
If the Obama administration wants to marginally increase the already easy access that employees have to contraceptives, it can do so through alternative means that don’t violate employers’ religious-liberty rights. That’s exactly what the standards set forth in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act contemplate.
2. NYT asserts that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act “was not intended to cover profit-making corporations,” and it observes that the Supreme Court “has never recognized that a secular corporation is an entity capable of engaging in religion.”
As a textual matter, RFRA extends its religious-liberty protections to all “persons,” and relevant federal law (as the third paragraph of this post explains more fully and as even the dissenter in the Seventh Circuit acknowledged) defines “persons” to include corporations. If a law were to require all restaurants to serve pork and to be open on Saturdays, is it really NYT’s belief that a kosher deli run by a Jewish family would not even have a claim under RFRA if the family has incorporated the deli?
Ann Althouse writes: Discussed previously here, linking to an Above the Law item that is now titled “Justice Clarence Thomas Speaks!” but was previously titled “Justice Clarence Thomas Speaks — And Oh What A Speech!”
I’m going to guess that the “And Oh What A Speech!” part got dropped not because ATL wanted to back away from expressing enthusiasm but because it’s not a speech. It’s an interview. And part of what’s good about it is that the interviewer 7th Circuit Judge Diane S. Sykes is excellent. Read the rest of this entry »