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Church State Issues

Hobby Lobby decision a narrow win for liberty

Jul 13, 2014

East Valley Tribune

Personally I think it is a violation of the First Amendment for the government to force Hobby Lobby to fund abortions and birth control for it's employees when the owners of Hobby Lobby have a religious belief that abortion and birth control is wrong.

That's despite the fact that I think it's a woman's RIGHT to use birth control and have an abortion.

But among the Phoenix atheists I seem to be a minority in my position.

East Valley Voices

Patterson: Hobby Lobby decision a narrow win for liberty

East Valley resident Tom Patterson ( is a retired physician and former state senator.

Posted: Friday, July 11, 2014 9:45 am

Guest Commentary by Tom Patterson

This July 4, Americans again celebrated our nation and its organizing principle: Liberty. We know that our founding document establishes our inalienable rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. We’re proud to be the “land of the free and the home of the brave” and to pledge “liberty and justice for all”.

In the abstract. In practice, liberty is not flourishing in today’s America. Too many Americans are forgetful of the glorious heritage we nominally celebrate on the 4th.

As a result, our college campuses have become hotbeds of restrictions on unpopular speech. Our lives are cluttered with government interference and regulations from pointless TSA pat -downs to property seizures in the service of environmental orthodoxy. Shockingly, many Americans objected to even the small nod to religious liberty in the Hobby Lobby decision.

We all know about Hobby Lobby, a closely held family company whose owners held religious objections to providing abortion drugs for their employees. No one denied that the objections were seriously held, nor that they were affirmed in law and the Constitution.

But the Left half of the political spectrum exploded in outrage. They insisted that religious freedom should give way to the “rights” of women to demand their employers pay for their abortion drugs.

That’s not how they framed it, of course. The New York Times headline proclaimed “Supreme Court Rejects Contraception Mandate for Corporations”, while Politico reported “SCOTUS sides with Hobby Lobby on Birth Control”.

But that’s just not true. It’s a particularly annoying style of argument: make up new facts when the actual facts don’t support the argument being made. The issue was abortion. It had nothing to do with contraception. Hobby Lobby’s owners not only didn’t object to contraception, they were willing to insure for 16 of the 20 birth control agents approved by the FDA, just not those causing abortions.

Hillary Clinton was more careful with the facts but no less dismissive of any possible concerns over religious freedom. To her, the decision was “deeply disturbing” and a “really bad, slippery slope”. The White House claimed that the “health of women who are employed by these companies is now in jeopardy”.

But the worry about the unchecked outrages to come, now that the door has been cracked open, is baseless. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), on which this case was settled, doesn’t grant a boundless right to claim religious objections and thus evade the law.

RFRA forbids the government from “substantially burdening” the free exercise of religion unless there is a compelling government interest to do so and no better way to achieve the goal. Those claiming a religious exemption are hardly assured success. Relax, folks, religious liberty isn’t going to spin out of control.

Hillary, Sandra Fluke and others have claimed the court’s decision limits women’s access to birth control. That charge assumes that women are so helpless, so dependent on government looking out for them, that they would risk an unwanted pregnancy unless their boss is mandated to pay for their abortion drugs. We can only hope Americans are made of sterner stuff (they are). Anyway, there are a wide variety of public and private subsidies available for those unable to comfortably afford the drugs.

We let our healthcare freedoms begin to slip away long before Hobby Lobby. This is what happens when you let unelected bureaucrats make health care decisions. Next thing you know, you’re having to go to the expense and trouble of arguing in court to protect your “inalienable” rights.

Why should government be dictating what kind of health insurance our employer purchases for us? For that matter, why should businesses be involved in making personal health care decisions for their workers? We would all be better off if we were given the money directly, to purchase our own health insurance with the same tax deduction businesses get.

The Obama administration tried steamroll Hobby Lobby owners into giving up their constitutional rights and complying with the government’s agenda. Hobby Lobby won this time. But it was a small, narrow victory which opponents are already trying to reverse. Still, a win for liberty is a win and for that we should be grateful.