Plenty of people are spending time talking about the Hobby Lobby ruling itself and are missing a much bigger issue: the ever-expansive role of the judiciary. When we don’t get what we want out of the legislative process, we lawyer up and try to create all kinds of fancy language to inject new meaning into existing law. Sometimes, the courts go along with it and encourage the same bad behavior in others. The end result is that we don’t even have a real system of law anymore; we have a system of lawyers, professional arguers that will convince you that the sky is green, up is down, and a juicy steak is a vegan dish.
Every now and again, the judiciary exercises a bit of restraint. The Hobby Lobby ruling is one of those rare times. Instead of creating a rather sweeping precedent for social change, either to allow religious conviction to overrule almost all public policy or vice-versa, they made a narrow and tailored ruling (which I agree with) that thankfully didn’t swing things too far in one direction or another.
You wouldn’t know it from the reactions, though.
Supporters of the ruling are calling it a huge victory for religious liberty, but it’s really not that huge. Only businesses with a handful of owners are affected. Publicly traded companies gain nothing, nor would they be all that likely to exercise any power given to them. And it only applies to contraceptives with several other theoreticals being called out as explicitly excluded. This isn’t going to stop some people who read too much into the narrow ruling from trying to carve out their own narrow exemptions, but they certainly don’t have a lot of precedent to rely on.
Opponents are the ones really milking this for all it’s worth. Many of the claims being made are a direct contradiction to what’s in the summary of the ruling itself. The apocalyptic scenario being described is that the entire country will be a fundamentalist hellscape where birth control is all but illegal and your employer can go Spanish conquistador and demand you convert or get fired. Neither is true, but dang if it doesn’t make for some good outrage-fueled clickbait headlines.
You see the problem here, don’t you?
Neither side got what they really wanted.
Despite showing a huge amount of restraint in not issuing a ruling that would impose sweeping social change, this decision was just punting until the demand for satisfaction is met on one side or the other. Both groups are going to be jockeying to get total victory and won’t give up until they do. And we’re a worse off nation for it.