Friday, March 28, 2014

Is a supremely bad decision on deck?


     In 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that religious belief and practice are not enough reason for individuals to act in violation of other laws in which there is a legitimate government purpose. In a case that came out of Oregon, the practice before the court was the sacramental use of peyote at a Native American church.

     Oral arguments in a similar case this week made court observers wonder if two justices who supported that decision may have had their fingers crossed. The new case involves Hobby Lobby, a privately held corporation. Its president and founder David Green is a conservative Christian. His beliefs shape company policies, from the music played in his stores to being closed on Sundays.

     In court this week, Hobby Lobby argued that the corporation should not have to provide employees with federally mandated health insurance because it covers birth control, which violates Green’s religious belief that life begins at conception.

     U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli argued that the government has a compelling reason to require coverage of whatever contraception a female employee chooses. Birth control promotes public health and ensures that “women have equal access to health care services.” Hobby Lobby cannot use Green’s religious beliefs to avoid the law, Verrilli argued.

     Hobby Lobby’s basic argument that religion should trump other laws was rejected in the 1990 case when Supreme Court Justices ruled in a 6-3 decision that the religious use of peyote by believers in the Native American church did not trump Oregon drug laws.

     Ironically, it was conservative Justice Antonin Scalia who wrote the majority opinion. The opinion noted that the court has never held that an individual’s religious beliefs excused him from compliance with an otherwise valid law. Allowing exceptions to state laws or regulations affecting religion “would open the prospect of constitutionally required exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind.” Scalia suggested the exemptions could include everything from vaccination requirements to paying taxes.

     This week, the justices’ questioning implied that Christian beliefs may be more deserving of protection than those of the Native American church. If so, where will the court draw a line? Is Hobby Lobby’s brand of Christianity more deserving than the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hindus, Jews—or even other Christians?

     The free exercise of religion enshrined in the First Amendment should not give any corporation the right to make medical decisions for employees any more than it gives employees the right to refuse to pay taxes. The Supreme Court has consistently upheld the principle that some things rightly belong to the state. The justices should do it again.




About Comments

Comments with content that seeks to incite or inflame may be removed.

Comments that are in ALL CAPS may be removed.

Comments that are off-topic or that include profanity or personal attacks, libelous or other inappropriate material may be removed from the site. Entries that are unsigned or contain signatures by someone other than the actual author may be removed. We will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or any other policies governing this site. Use of this system denotes full acceptance of these conditions. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

The comments below are from the readers of mtexpress.com and in no way represent the views of Express Publishing, Inc.

You may flag individual comments. You may also report an inappropriate or offensive comment by clicking here.

Flagging Comments: Flagging a comment tells a site administrator that a comment is inappropriate. You can find the flag option by pointing the mouse over the comment and clicking the 'Flag' link.

Flagging a comment is only counted once per person, and you won't need to do it multiple times.

Proper Flagging Guidelines: Every site has a different commenting policy - be sure to review the policy for this site before flagging comments. In general these types of comments should be flagged:

  • Spam
  • Ones violating this site's commenting policy
  • Clearly unrelated
  • Personal attacks on others
Comments should not be flagged for:
  • Disagreeing with the content
  • Being in a dispute with the commenter

Popular Comment Threads



 Local Weather 
Search archives:


Copyright © 2019 Express Publishing Inc.   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.