Hobby Lobby and its Aftermath: What Will RFRA Do Next? [Hub Debate]

Now that the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has decided Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, people are wondering a few things: What is the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)? ŸWhy do we have RFRA? What does RFRA cover? What are the limits of free exercise of religion under RFRA? These are all great questions because most people have never heard of RFRA, and why should they have? It is an obscure federal law concerning religious freedom. And how many rational people read any of the tens-of-thousands of federal laws…

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby: What it Is, and What it Ain’t [Hub Debate]

  With the Supreme Court ruling 5-4 in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby on Monday, finding  that for-profit employers with religious objections can opt out of providing contraception coverage under Obamacare, our debate topic is set: did the Supreme Court get it right? Or wrong?    I have thought long and hard how to approach today’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (i.e., the Religious Freedom Restoration Act challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive/abortifacient/sterilization mandate (Mandate)). I have written on various aspects of this subject before, but I wanted to really get at what this case is about.…

To Gag or Not to Gag? (Religion That Is)

A couple weeks ago, Hobby Lobby made it to the Supreme Court of the United States. The issue was Obamacare’s abortifacient/contraceptive/sterilization mandate. Hobby Lobby (a closely held corporation run by a believing evangelical Christian family) insists the mandate violates its religious beliefs and its free exercise of religion under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Obama administration insists it doesn’t care. While Hobby Lobby has received all the news lately, another case regarding the Obamacare mandate may prove to be even more interesting/disturbing. This one involves the Roman Catholic…

Religion and Governmental Incompetence

In a recent column, I addressed the origin and importance of the American concept of religious freedom. Our American concept of religious freedom is different, in part, because our concept of government is different. We believe in a limited government — i.e., one that is not able to govern every aspect of our lives. The entire point of a constitution is to limit government, and we limit government in any number of ways, both menial and fundamental: (1) we limit the government’s ability to be led by a president younger…

Two Kingdoms, Faith, and Freedom for All

For religious believers (as the vast majority of Utahns are), this world is made up of two kingdoms: the kingdom of God (or Gods), and the kingdom of men. These kingdoms are very different. They have different languages. They have different customs. They have different laws. They have different leaders. Believers owe allegiance to both kingdoms: the spiritual and the temporal. As Isaac Backus, a Baptist leader and influential advocate of religious freedom during the Founding generation, explained, the kingdoms “are distinct in their nature, and ought never to be…

HOUSE OF CARDS: The Gospel According to Francis Underwood — Part I

(Note: this piece contains no season two spoilers.) Francis Underwood is the main character of the Netflix original series House of Cards. Francis is the Democrat House Majority Whip, and a consummate politician. When he is passed over as Secretary of State, he decides to rain hellfire on Washington and amass as much power in himself as possible. In Francis’s world, everything is about power and control. Religion is no different. It is nothing more than another means to an end. In House of Cards, the Gospel of Jesus, which…

The Right to Be Wrong: Ending the Culture War Over Religion in America

America is exceptional. It’s exceptional because of our love for and commitment to individual freedom. And the first individual freedom delineated in the Bill of Rights is the freedom of religion. This first freedom is the subject of Kevin Hasson’s wonderful little read: “The Right to Be Wrong.” (Hasson is the founder of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty). Hasson, ever the storyteller, begins with an illustrative tale of the Pilgrims. Pilgrims, you see, are an archetype. They represent both early and modern Americans wishing to use the power of…

Liberty in Legoland: a Movie Review

The Lego Movie

Movies are funny things. They can mean different things to different people and different things to the same person depending on the moment. At this moment, to me, “The Lego Movie” stands as an allegory regarding religious liberty. Its necessity. Its repression. Its enemies. Its ultimate triumph. It doesn’t hurt that the movie is also exceedingly funny and visually engaging (every scene could actually be built in Legos, if you had bundles of Legos), but that’s ephemeral stuff compared to its underlying message. The movie begins and ends with Emmet…

Book Review | The Beautiful Tree by James Tooley [Publius Online]

The Beautiful Tree  is a book about what’s right with the world. Amazingly, what is right with the world is found in the slums of Nigeria, India, Kenya, China, and Zimbabwe. The poor educating themselves without government assistance is the name of the game. In the early 2000s author of The Beautiful Tree, James Tooley (a British educator and researcher), discovered that the slums of India contained thousands of private schools, funded exclusively through student tuition, and operating without government oversight. Told such schools did not exist by government education bureaucrats, Tooley…

Why religious freedom? [Publius Online]

Why religious freedom? The question seems, on its face, silly. We are Americans. We value religious freedom and we have since before the Founding. Religious freedom is the first freedom protected in the Bill of Rights. It comes before the freedom of speech and assembly and before freedom of the press. It is the freedom that stands as the primary bulwark of our constitutional republic. But why? Why religious freedom? The answer is multi-faceted, but here are a few thoughts.