By now, if you’re American – and you haven’t been living in a cave somewhere – you’ve probably heard about the Supreme Court’s decision on the Hobby Lobby case. Usually I tend to shun the more popular news stories of the day, but in this case it’s highly appropriate for my Examiner column. What does the Hobby Lobby decision mean for Chicago Catholics? Lets take a look.
The first thing you should know is that the Catholic Conference of Illinois announced they were “elated” that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, so that should give you a pretty good idea of the Catholic Church’s official stance on the matter. On Sunday, I listened to a homily about how people of religious faith would gather at the Federal Plaza in downtown Chicago to await the outcome of the case. There, my pastor planned to give a prayer invocation for the protection of religious liberty. On Sunday, the outcome of the Hobby Lobby case was still unknown and could go either way, so parishioners were asked to pray fervently for victory.
Now let’s take a look at the ruling itself. It was decided by a razor thin 5-to-4 split on the Supreme Court. The ruling did not address Hobby Lobby’s first amendment claims, so it didn’t set any precedents there (rather, the decision was based on the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act). Nor did the decision – as critics of the ruling have claimed – “banned” the government from requiring coverage for contraceptives. In fact, Hobby Lobby already provided coverage for 16 types of contraceptives, but they were objecting to the mandate to provide coverage for abortifacients (substances that induce abortion) like the “morning after pill”. Hobby Lobby executives felt it violated their religious beliefs. The court ruled 5-to-4 that “closely held corporations” (e.g. family owned companies run by people of deep religious faith) can’t be forced by Obamacare to provide “contraception” that causes abortions. According to critics of the ruling, this means “women” who work for such companies won’t have “access” to birth control methods like the morning after pill, since they’d have to pay roughly $9 to purchase them down the block at CVS. However, for people who work for a publicly traded corporation, this ruling does not apply. It is also unclear how this applies to religious institutions (such as a Christian college) since the decision specifically addressed the situation of Hobby Lobby.
In short, the ruling was very narrow in scope. It is not likely to affect any major changes in constitutional law, or affect the individual mandate in Obamacare that forces individuals to purchase health insurance for themselves. What basically happened was a step in the right direction that shows we still have some basic religious liberty in America. A victory rally at Chicago’s Federal Plaza was an appropriate response. However, many of the destructive decisions of the Obama administration (like using taxpayers money to fund abortions) remain intact. Catholics must continue the long struggle against the culture of death in America.
Not surprisingly, proponents of Obamacare are still “outraged” anyway. They make contradictory arguments, saying the government should stay “out of the bedroom” when it comes to people’s sexual relationships, yet somehow Americans are still obligated to pay for the supplies and consequences of whatever people do “in the bedroom”. (The same contradictory argument is used by gay marriage proponents – they claim that employers and government officials have no right to “judge” that relationship and need to stay “out of the bedroom”, yet they also want marriage redefined just for them). Another argument from the pro-Obamacare crowd is that birth control is somehow exclusively a “woman’s issue” (does this mean that males using condoms don’t count?) and that men should have no say in the matter. Yet before Obamacare, they always preached that contraception was “the responsibility of BOTH partners and men need to stop placing the burden on women to take care of it“. Finally, I think perhaps the most ridiculous argument is that some women “need” birth control immediately or their very lives will be at risk. In reality, the only time contraception would be “needed” for health reasons is in the treatment of endometriosis. Condoms and morning after pills are simply not a medical need – they are a convenience to avoid pregnancy because of a choice to engage in sexual conduct.
The bottom line is that we need to do more as a culture to reverse the modern trends in our society. This is especially true when people feel that they don’t need to control their own behavior, and that they have the “right” to force others to pay for the consequences. Let’s take a moment to thank God for this common sense victory. Next, let’s show Hobby Lobby that we agree with their choice to draw the line somewhere. Just as “gay marriage” proponents overreached by trying to ban Chick-Fil-A stores simply because the owner disagreed with them about gay marriage, there will likely be a similar backlash from Obamacare supporters against Hobby Lobby. On Thursday, July 3rd, many websites are encouraging Americans to visit their local Hobby Lobby and snap a picture in the store to express solidarity with them. I think this is an excellent idea. No matter where you go or what you buy, you can send a strong message that enough is enough. Access to birth control is one thing, and it is a non-issue in modern America where you can buy it cheaply on any street corner. Forcing religious people to pay for your abortion drugs is quite another.