Tuesday, July 1, 2014

SCOTUS Hobby Lobby Decision Skirts the Fundamental Issue

The Supreme Court ruled on June 30 that the Obama Administration's contraception mandate imposed on employers violates the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). RFRA states that, with two exceptions, "Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability." The Court found that neither exception applied, so the contraception mandate was thrown out.

It’s true that employers have a right not to offer contraception coverage to their employees if they have religious objections to birth control. But the more fundamental issue has nothing to do with religious freedom. It has to do with contract rights; specifically, the right of employers and employees to voluntarily contract to mutual advantage.

The government has no right to impose contraception mandates on any employer, religious or not. More broadly, the government has no right to impose insurance mandates of any kind whatsoever. The government’s only legitimate function is to protect individuals’ rights by barring the initiation of physical force, including fraud. Insurance mandates violate rights by forcing contract terms on people—whether employers, employees, insurers, doctors, or healthcare consumers—who have violated no one’s rights. Since there is no right to contraception provided by others, the owners of Hobby Lobby violated no one’s rights by acting in accordance with their religious beliefs. Since the government initiated force against employers with the contraception mandate, it acted contrary to its proper limits.

Unfortunately, while the Court rightly threw out the contraception mandate, it did so by skirting the fundamental issue. The Hobby Lobby case would never have come up if the government had not violated Hobby Lobby’s contract rights to begin with.

Of course, the government has been massively and increasingly violating rights in the healthcare field for decades. 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. What Americans must begin to do is examine the roots of the contraception mandate—the premise that the government must guarantee healthcare to everyone—reject that premise, and then move to systematically extricate government from Americans’ healthcare lives.

Related Reading:

Moral Health Care vs. “Universal Health Care”—Paul Hsieh and Lin Zinser

No comments: