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Hobby Lobby: We Will Never Hit Peak Derp


John Nolte, ladies and gentlemen:

First of all, Hobby Lobby was not a 1st Amendment case. Hobby Lobby (unlike some of the litigants) didn’t even raise a 1st Amendment claim, because any such claim would be farcical under the controlling precedent, authored by noted whining anti-Catholic Trotskyite Antonin Scalia. Secondly, the only people asking for “free stuff” here are Mr. Plow the owners of Hobby Lobby, who wants the tax breaks it gets for compensating their employees with health insurance rather than cash but doesn’t want to comply with the relevant regulations. The employees earned the benefit. Other than that, Nolte still has no idea what he’s talking about.

OK, perhaps that’s fish in a barrel — let’s consult the more highbrow precincts of the right. Ross Douthat offers you a non-sequitur as an appetizer:

One such company was hailed last year by the left-wing policy website Demos “for thumbing its nose at the conventional wisdom that success in the retail industry” requires paying “bargain-basement wages.” A retail chain with nearly 600 stores and 13,000 workers, this business sets its lowest full-time wage at $15 an hour, and raised wages steadily through the stagnant postrecession years. (Its do-gooder policies also include donating 10 percent of its profits to charity and giving all employees Sunday off.) And the chain is thriving commercially — offering, as Demos put it, a clear example of how “doing good for workers can also mean doing good for business.”

Of course I’m talking about Hobby Lobby, the Christian-owned craft store that’s currently playing the role of liberalism’s public enemy No. 1, for its successful suit against the Obama administration’s mandate requiring coverage for contraceptives, sterilization and potential [wha? –ed] abortifacients.

First of all, it’s not clear why getting Sunday off specifically (as opposed to an employer complying with maximum hours laws) is a special employee benefit — Douthat seems to have trouble envisioning employees who do not observe a Sunday sabbath and hence may be inconvenienced by the mandatory Sunday day off. But that’s a minor point — Hobby Lobby does seem to have solid labor practices for a major retailer. Which they could easily continue by providing full contraceptive coverage in the health insurance benefits packages of their employees, just as they did until they discovered there was war against Obama going on in 2012 and hence their own longstanding practices were suddenly a “substantial burden” on their Deeply Held Religious Principles. (We must also assume that the secular, for-profit corporate form can represent personal religious values, despite the utter lack of precedent on behalf of this proposition.)

But this isn’t just a point about the company’s particular virtues. The entire conflict between religious liberty and cultural liberalism has created an interesting situation in our politics: The political left is expending a remarkable amount of energy trying to fine, vilify and bring to heel organizations — charities, hospitals, schools and mission-infused businesses — whose commitments they might under other circumstances extol.

In point of fact, asking some entity to comply with the generally applicable, neutral regulations everyone else has to comply with is not “vilification.” I also note that the DHHS regulations contained extensive accommodations for religious organizations (as opposed to secular for-profit ones), something that Alito’s opinion actually used against the administration because no attempt at compromise goes unpunished by contemporary Republicans. At any rate, this campaign of “vilification” against religious believers is imaginary. Comnevrsely, the campaign of vilification of the ACA — which is what this litigation is actually about — is very real, and people are dying as a result of it.

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