Hobby Lobby – a different facet

  1. Hobby Lobby and optimal purity
  2. Be careful what you ask for

1

It behooves me, I guess, to comment on the Hobby Lobby decision.

First, I’m far happier than if Hobby Lobby had lost.

Second, I understand from skimming reliable sources that the decision was narrow and was based on the definition of person or some cognate in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which clearly included corporations.

Third, limiting it to closely held corporations seemed in advance of the decision to be the best way of dealing with religious exercise by the artificial persons that are corporations, and that’s what the court did.

Fourth, pulling back the veil and looking hard at Hobby Lobby makes it apparent that being a “Christian corporation” or a “Christian-themed chain” these days is problematic. Patrick Deneen and Jonathan Coppage have written about why that’s so, and I’ll not try to paraphrase them.

Paying well above minimum wage is exemplary. Closing on Sunday is a rebuke to all of us who enjoy the desuetude of Blue Laws all too well. Resisting paying for drugs that may cause abortions, as Hobby Lobby not unreasonably conceives abortion, has won them my moderate if not undying gratitude.

But still: they sell cheap stuff made in dubious or horrible conditions in China. Just like other bog box stores.

It’s hard to imagine Hobby Lobby levels of success selling craft supplies made in the USA by well-paid people working in safe environments. Witness, for instance, the less-than-big-box success of Bill’s Khakis, which is easily explained by the price (which I have paid and will pay again for superior US-made goods, but then I’m somewhat above the average US income, too).

In law school, I joined the Christian Legal Society partly to explore what it meant to be a “Christian lawyer.” Two or two-and-a-half decades later, I still had no satisfying answer. The closest I came was being really, really ethical, but a pagan can do that, and the ethical rules are not unequivocally Christian; they’re just the rules of the legal game. (Not to mention that God didn’t come in human flesh to make bad men good, but to make dead men live.)

Perhaps somewhere on this globe the possibility exists of being a Christian lawyer in some distinctive way, but in the land of my birth, despite my wish that it were otherwise, the best one can do, I fear, is to be a Christian and a lawyer, aware that our profession guides people through a flawed legal system in an increasingly godless culture, and that you can’t do that five days per week without complicity in things you’d rather not be complicit in.

Oh, shoot! Did I just say, in effect, that the practice of law is the art of the possible? Will I need to re-assess weak-kneed politicians? All I really wanted to say is that “Christian” this or “Christian” that in an increasing un- or anti-Christian society is ever fraught with ambiguities unless it’s completely counter-cultural and thus marginal, not mainstream.

2

Justice Alito’s “least restrictive means” discussion  creates some of the most important surprises, and may lead those who supported Hobby Lobby’s position to recall the adage: “be careful what you wish for.”  Jutice Alito makes two points. First, he argues that the “most straightforward” less restrictive alternative would be for the government to assume the cost of furnishing contraceptive coverage. The logical extension of this argument seems to be that if numerous other religious objections to providing employer coverage arise, the best alternative may be a single-payer government-run system.

(Religion Clause blog) The same was true of GOP efforts to overturn Obamacare, as you read here first. The assumption is – and I’m sure it’s true of some Hobby Lobby supporters and false of others – is that the real and ultimate goal is of Hobby Lobby and its friends is tearing out the Affordable Care Act root and branch, but that they’d find single-payer even more odious.

* * * * *

“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.