Friday, July 11, 2014

More on the Left's Fear of a Hobby Lobby "Slippery Slope" to More Liberty

In my last post, I highlighted two examples of how the Left fears much wider consequences to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling than the narrowness of the actual ruling would seem to indicate.

A column by The Objective Standard’s Ari Armstrong highlights why the Left's fear—what the Miami Herald’s Leonard Pitts Jr., quoting Justice Ginsburg, labeled a “slippery slope”—is well-founded:

[I]n her dissent to the Hobby Lobby decision, Ruth Bader Ginsburg concludes that, because the RFRA [Religious Freedom Restoration Act that the ruling was based on] protects people motivated by certain religious views but not people motivated by other views, government should not protect the rights of any business owner to decide what type of health insurance to offer. Her argument is essentially this: “Because government fails to protect the rights of all, it should protect the rights of none.” The obvious alternative—and the morally correct one—is for government to recognize and protect everyone’s rights fully and equally. [My emphasis]

Armstrong also cites a recent article by law professor Sasha Volokh, who makes the same point on more potent, constitutional grounds. Armstrong Observes:

[Volokh]  argues the [RFRA] (at least as interpreted) violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, because it recognizes people’s rights to act on deeply held religious beliefs, but not people’s rights to act on “deeply held secular convictions.”

These are prescient observations that belie the majority’s assurances that the ruling is necessarily narrow. “Let no one be mollified by [Justices Alito’s and Kennedy’s] assurances,” wrote Leonard Pitts Jr., that the ruling is "very specific" and lacks "breadth and sweep."

In light of these objections, it’s easy to see why the statist Left is alarmed. Freedom is contagious. Principled pro-liberty forces can and do seize on the "narrow" Hobby Lobby ruling and ask; why liberty only for one narrow group? The Left's only argument is weak: Don’t protect anyone’s liberty, lest everyone demand the same liberty! They are walled in between two alternatives; defend tyranny, or watch a big edifice of the welfare state crumble. As Armstrong concluded:

The problem with the recent Supreme Court ruling is not that it recognized the rights of Hobby Lobby’s owners to operate their business as they see fit in the sphere specified; the problem is that it does not recognize the rights of everyone—people of faith and people of reason—to operate their businesses and to run their lives as they see fit in all spheres.

And as I noted in some published comments:

Let’s hope that [the Hobby Lobby ruling does have these broad ramifications], because it would be good for our country—and consistent with its Founding Principles—to expand the [same] liberty [to everyone] to live our lives and enjoy our property in pursuit of our personal goals, values, and happiness.

In my first remarks on this ruling, I said, “This ruling is a minor plus for individual rights. But in the broader scope, it does nothing to reverse the long-term anti-liberty trend.” Perhaps I was a bit hasty. Here’s to hoping the Left’s fears come true.

[NOTE: Sasha Volokh suggests in her article Is RFRA Unconstitutional? that the only way to bring religious exemption laws (like RFRA) into compliance with the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment is to (a) repeal all such laws or (b) extend such exemptions to “to apply to deeply held secular convictions” as well. She quoted Justice John Paul Stevens’s concurring Hobby Lobby dissent regarding RFRA: “This governmental preference for religion, as opposed to irreligion, is forbidden by the First Amendment.” ]

Related Reading:

Leftist Editorial Exposes Consequence of SCOTUS's Narrow Hobby Lobby Reasoning

Capitalism and the Moral High Ground—Craig Biddle

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