What Happened to Religious Freedom? Asks Hobby Lobby

What Happened to Religious Freedom? Asks Hobby Lobby


As an individual, your religious freedom is protected by the First Amendment. But if you start a business, a very successful business, does that religious freedom go out the window? The owners of Hobby Lobby have taken that question to the Supreme Court.


If you thought the Hobby Lobby case was about contraception and women’s rights, well, there’s a lot going on here. First off, Hobby Lobby actually supports preventative birth control, in case you weren’t aware of this. In fact, they support 16 of the 20 methods required under the contraception mandate. It’s only 4 that induce ‘early abortions’ that the owners draw the line on. With the way the media and protesters have been going on about the Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. case, it’s easy to be mislead into thinking that Hobby Lobby is completely against birth control. Nope.


But let’s step back to religious freedom and First Amendment rights. One of the questions being asked in this Supreme Court case centers around the idea of whether or not corporations are ‘people’.

The First Amendment protects the rights “of the people,” and the 1993 law [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] protects the religious rights of “persons.”  Do profit-making companies qualify as either?

Aside from whether corporations do have any religious rights, as such, the cases also raise the question whether the religious rights of their owners — real people, who undeniably can act according to their faith — are violated by the requirement that their companies obey the contraceptive mandate.  Ordinarily, in business law, corporations are separate from their owners, but the owners in these cases resist that notion, at least so far as the owners’ religious views actually shape the business of their companies. (Washington Post)

It’s easy to feel dismissive of ‘corporations’ but let’s rephrase that. What if this was your business? You start a small business. It grows and becomes an extremely successful business but now the government is telling you to pay for something that infringes on one of your deeply held beliefs.

“Why as a family, because we’ve incorporated, do I have to give up religious freedoms, which are core to what our nation was founded on?” said Steve Green, the president of the Oklahoma City-based company and son of its founder. (Bloomberg)

For some of us, religion is our lifeblood and those values become a part of how we do business, especially in the case of this business:

Hobby Lobby was founded in 1970 by David Green, the son of a Christian minister. David Green is now one of five co-equal owners of the company, along with his wife, Barbara, and their three children. All five have signed statements declaring their religious faith and committing to run the business accordingly.

The company’s religious character can be both subtle and unmistakable. In stores, Christian songs play in instrumental form, recognizable to adherents who know the music though not to other customers, Steve Green says. More visibly, Hobby Lobby buys hundreds of full-page newspaper ads at Christmas and Easter inviting people to “know Jesus as Lord and Savior.” (Bloomberg)

On the flip side, if the Supreme Court sides with Hobby Lobby and defends the religious rights of companies, “such a ruling could open the door to more controversial laws”, according to HuffPost. For example, vaccinations has been a hotly contested issue in some arenas. It’s not a far-stretch to think that some companies could use this as an opportunity to challenge coverage for vaccines. And that’s not even touching the extreme interpretations that this ruling could take.

All these things have to be weighed and considered in the Hobby Lobby case. When you start a business, are you still free to exercise religious freedom regarding that business? Or is it like what Caroline Mala Corbin, a law professor says: “Corporations ‘are not sentient, they have no soul, and they certainly do not have a relationship with God’”? Let us know what side you’re on in the comments below or on Facebook!



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